New for summer 2024! Your favourite self-driving news in print.

Cars of the Future – the UK’s No.1 for Self-Driving – in print for MOVE

Well, this is exciting; visitors to the MOVE event in London will be the first to enjoy Cars of the Future – the UK’s No.1 for Self-Driving – in print.

Copies will be available in Theatre 6 (the AV stage), where I’ll be hosting on Wednesday afternoon. If you can’t make it, fear not, you can always email us to request one.

Or there’s this digital copy: Cars of the Future, summer 2024

A brief look at common objections to self-driving. Do they stack up?

AV Myth-Busting: From Self-Driving Denial To Terrorist Hacks

“It’s clear that many people are still not sure whether self-driving vehicles will be safer than human drivers, and don’t know whether they will improve travel or who will benefit most,” concluded the 2021 Myth-Busting Self-Driving Vehicles paper by the road safety charity, Brake.

Compared to bizarre but persistent urban legends like “dogs can’t look up”, these sound like reasonable doubts which can and should be addressed. That said, it is universally accepted that the automated vehicle (AV) industry has a public perception mountain to climb.

To move the debate on, we’ve divided the vocally anti-self-driving into three groups: 1) deniers, 2) opponents, and 3) catastrophisers. Let’s take their concerns in turn and see if they stack up.

Self-driving deniers

The it’ll never happen brigade – those living, wilfully or not, in denial of the capabilities of modern transport technologies. Exhibit A: The headline “Self-driving cars are another Silicon Valley fantasy that will never work” in The Telegraph last September.

Being as balanced as we can, the industry has somewhat brought this upon itself by overpromising. In 2018, Elon Musk felt “very confident” that Tesla owners would be sending their cars out as robotaxis the following year. That didn’t happen.

Fast forward to 2024, however, and AVs are on the road. In America, Waymo says it has conducted “7+ million miles of rider-only driving”. In Scotland, Project CAVForth – using a specially modified fleet of Stagecoach buses – has been taking fares daily since May 2023, giving tens of thousands of UK passengers their first taste of self-driving public transport.

Self-driving opponents

The I don’t like it mob – fair enough, that is their prerogative, but it is often extended to an assertion that nobody loves AVs. Exhibit B: The headline “Maybe People Don’t Want Self-Driving Cars After All” in Jalopnik last October.

Ok, why should they? Last summer, The Self-Driving All-Party Parliamentary Group published a well-informed policy paper to make the case, starting with some pretty eye-catching economic and safety benefits.

“The UK has a unique opportunity for leadership in an industry that could be worth £750 billion globally by 2035,” it said. “The Government’s analysis of the sector showed that it could potentially generate £42 billion and 38,000 jobs for the UK economy by 2035.”

On the safety impact, it listed the four leading causes of road accidents – driver error, reckless behaviour, disobeying traffic laws and driver impairment – saying: “Research from the insurance industry shows that self-driving vehicles could save the NHS £2.3 billion annually in medical and ambulance costs by eliminating the 85% of accidents where human error is a contributory factor.”

Another oft-quoted benefit is improved accessibility. While urging the industry to engage more with the community, Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), said recently: “Self-driving can clearly be a transformative technology for a lot of disabled people.”

Self-driving catastrophisers

The nightmare scenario obsessives – sometimes quite knowledgeable, who focus on the worst potential impacts of automation. Exhibit C: The headline “Terrorists could hack into driverless cars to use as weapons” in The Mail last October.

Cybersecurity has been one of the hottest automotive topics for a decade now, with increasingly frequent and sophisticated attacks met by ever more advanced defences. It was highlighted at the SMMT’s Connected 2024 event that we don’t invest as heavily as the banking sector. Maybe we should.

Another go-to for catastrophisers is the trolley problem – the question of who to save in no-win crash situations. Exhibit D: Jeremy Clarkson’s “Driverless cars are pointless – and they have built-in instructions to kill you” headline in The Sun.

That isn’t how perception software works, and, as Elliot Hemes, of IPG Automotive UK, says:99% of the time, great brakes will get you out of trolley problem scenarios.”

Please note: a version of this article was first published in the Institute of the Motor Industry’s MotorPro magazine.

New York City to start trials of self-driving cars with safety drivers.

Safety drivers required for Big Apple self-driving trials

Flagship local news provider NBC New York has highlighted plans to trial self-driving cars with safety drivers in the most populous city in the United States – “autonomous but not driverless”, as reporter Andrew Siff puts it.

2024 NBC New York report on automated driving testing in NYC

Self-driving NYC

NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, emphasised that all companies applying for testing permits will have to go through a rigorous approval process.

They must also agree to share data relating to any occasions when the safety driver has intervened.

This approach is broadly in line with what we’re doing here in the UK – certainly more cautious than the free-wheeling approach of California.

The report notably contains footage of robotaxis operated by both Cruise and Waymo.

Cruise and Waymo self-driving cars
Cruise and Waymo self-driving cars

Thanks to Ian Dooley on Unsplash for the cool black and white NYC photo.

VW deepens strategic partnership with Mobileye to deliver self-driving ID Buzz

VW links with Mobileye promising large scale self-driving EV production by 2026

In what it claims is a first for a global vehicle manufacturer, Volkswagen Group has partnered with self-driving technology specialist, Mobileye, to develop a Level 4 electric van for “large-scale production”.

The agreement will see Mobileye supplying software, hardware and digital maps for the self-driving ID Buzz. In particular, a self-driving system based on the Mobileye Drive platform.

Further key components include two independent high-performance computers, 13 cameras, nine lidar and five radar units, plus constant online connection to clouds providing “swarm data from other road users about the traffic situation”.

VW partners with Mobileye to push self-driving
VW partners with Mobileye to push self-driving

As well as automated driving, Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles (VWCV) is also the lead brand within VW for mobility-as-a-Service (MAAS). It has been working on the self-driving ID Buzz since 2021 and, via Volkswagen ADMT GmbH, plans to have it ready by 2026.

Pushing self-driving

“Bringing autonomous shuttles on the road in large quantities requires cooperation from strong partners,” said Christian Senger, member of the Board of Management at VWCV. “We are developing the first fully autonomous large-scale production vehicle, and Mobileye brings its digital driver on board.”

In the longer term, VW aims to develop on own in-house system, leveraging its partnerships with Bosch and Qualcomm, as well as Horizon Robotics in China.

“Our goal is to offer our customers throughout the world outstanding products with cutting-edge technology,” said Oliver Blume, CEO of VW and Porsche.

VW CEO, Oliver Blume, backs self-driving
VW CEO, Oliver Blume, backs self-driving

“New automated driving functions will significantly boost convenience and safety. These functions, which will be tailored to our brands and products, will make every trip a personal, individual experience. In Mobileye, we have an additional first-class partner to shape this automotive future together.”

Prof. Amnon Shashua, President and CEO of Mobileye, added: “We are proud to work closely with Volkswagen Group to make the future of driving safer, more automated and more rewarding.”

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has opened its call for evidence on self-driving.

NIC call for evidence on self-driving deadline: 3 June

The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has opened its call for evidence on connected and self-driving technologies to “support sustainable economic growth across all regions of the UK, improve competitiveness and quality of life, and support climate resilience”.

As outlined by Chairman Sir John Armitt CBE at the Zenzic CAM Innovators’ Day in March, the NIC exists to provide government with impartial, expert advice on major long term infrastructure challenges.

Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

Recent NIC studies have looked at ways to reduce the risks of surface water flooding, and ways to make our electricity distribution network fit for net zero.

The terms of reference for the self-driving study are, broadly: How the government should plan, operate and maintain the UK’s road network (and related digital infrastructure) to ensure that CAM technologies are accounted for in strategic transport plans.

The Commission takes the government’s definition of a self-driving vehicle – one that has at least one self-driving feature, such that it meets a legally-defined threshold and is capable of safely driving itself with no human input.

The Commission assumes that most automated vehicles will also be connected – able to communicate with the driver, other vehicles, roadside infrastructure and other services via the cloud. It is therefore also interested in the benefits that connectivity can bring separately or in addition to self-driving.

Commissioner Michele Dix said: “This technology enables us to think differently about how we could manage the country’s congested roads, transforming the experiences of drivers and public transport users and giving business productivity a real boost.

“The study is a chance to understand the full implications of the technology for future infrastructure design and operation, and to identify the policies government will need to ensure it succeeds.”

NIC call for evidence on self-driving
NIC call for evidence on self-driving

Self-driving questions

Key questions the NIC is seeking to address include:

What opportunities and risks could self-driving vehicles present for freight and logistics? For example, regarding cost savings for retail and business customers.

What are the opportunities and risks that self-driving ride-hailing services could bring to households and wider society? For example, whether they might prompt greater use of shared transport services.

    What are the opportunities and risks for public transport from self-driving vehicles? For example, whether interventions may be needed to ensure the provision of affordable transport options in certain areas.

    Are there specific interventions in relation to physical highway infrastructure and/or digital connectivity that could enable greater benefits from the use of self-driving vehicles? For example, whether there is sometimes a case for dedicated lanes or other segregation.

    To what extent could self-driving vehicles help address existing inequalities and improve transport inclusion? For example, for people who are unable to drive due to a disability or age.

    Deadline: 3 June

    Responses should be sent via email to [email protected] by the end of Monday 3 June 2024.

    An interim report is expected in summer 2024, with the Commission’s full conclusions due in February 2025.

    For further info please see the NIC website.

    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers, talks self-driving.

    Huge trust issue: Why self-driving must keep its accessibility promise

    With improved accessibility consistently quoted as a key benefit of self-driving, it was shocking to hear Gordon McCullough, CEO of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), warn Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024 of rising disillusionment.

    So, in the spirit of Prof Paul Newman’s challenge to “ask difficult questions”, we invited McCullough to expand on his assertion that the disabled community feel excluded when new technologies, like connected and automated vehicles, are introduced.

    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the RiDC, talks self-driving
    Gordon McCullough, CEO of the RiDC, talks self-driving

    What do you see as the likely impacts of self-driving for disabled people?

    “Self-driving can clearly be a transformative technology for a lot of disabled people, particularly those who find public transport inaccessible or cannot drive. In a world where you are unable to drive, whether that’s due to a vision or dexterity impairment, or a learning disability, the first and last mile is a huge issue. An on-demand self-driving service, taking you from your door to wherever you need to go – a transport hub, hospital or shopping centre – could be a gamechanger, theoretically a wonderful step forward.

    “The problem is nobody’s really talking about how to design these things to make them accessible, and nobody’s really talking to disabled people about their concerns. We’re actively working to address that now – doing research with TRL into disabled peoples’ attitudes to connected and autonomous vehicles, and doing webinars and panels with Zenzic to engage more with the self-driving industry.”

    Can you give some examples of the transport challenges that need solving?

    “For starters, the Motability Foundation found that disabled people are 38% less likely to use UK public transport than non-disabled people. That’s a damning statistic and it hasn’t changed in over a decade. The fact is our public transport services have structural, financial and attitudinal issues which act as barriers to disabled people.

    “There are approximately two million people registered blind or partially sighted people in the UK. Street environments alone present enough challenges for them, things like travelling on the tube can be fraught with difficulties – from annoyances like people petting their guide dogs, to the lack of audio feedback on contactless payment terminals, to anxieties like ‘what if something goes wrong?’

    “As we’ve seen with charging points for electric vehicles, the anxieties are multiplied for disabled people. To try and understand the pain points, and then to use design to build trust and acceptance, that’s still a fanciful concept for a lot of people. It should be considered best practice.”

    Is human-to-human customer service essential to building trust in self-driving?

    “Regardless of whether you’re disabled or not, there will initially be a degree of anxiety about travelling in a driverless vehicle, even if there’s a member of staff on board. The existence of very responsive support is vital, but we don’t yet know what level of assurance is enough. If there’s a special assistance button – somebody on the end of the line who knows where you are, understands your impairments and can sort the problem quickly, or get somebody out to help you – is that enough?

    “How does the provision of such clear customer service affect the business case? Profit margin aside, what about the social case? Time and again we find that when a technology runs away with itself, disabled people almost inevitably get forgotten. Companies then go back and try to put fixes in place, and end up spending a lot more money than they would if they had started by asking: how do we make this accessible for everyone, not just 80% of the population?”

    Have your say on self-driving by joining The RiDC Panel
    Have your say on self-driving by joining The RiDC Panel

    Any disabled readers interested in joining The RiDC Panel, the charity’s 4,000-strong research group, please visit

    rFpro joins ASAM to set standards for simulation-based self-driving testing

    Self-driving standards: rFpro joins ASAM

    In late March, rFpro announced that it had joined the prestigious Association for Standardization of Automation and Measuring Systems (ASAM).

    Working with OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers, research institutes and engineering service providers, the Germany-based non-profit has a mission to establish common standards for the development and testing of all automotive systems.

    Of particular interest to self-driving is the OpenMATERIAL project. Initiated by BMW, it aims to create a complete set of standards for the simulation-based testing of automated driving functions. 

    Peter Daley, Managing Director of rFpro, said: “Defining material properties is a key strength for rFpro so we are keen to be involved in OpenMATERIAL to help direct and progress this standard.

    “Material definitions have been loosely structured to date, so standardising this would bring huge benefits, particularly for the development of virtual sensor models.”

    ASAM CEO Marius Dupuis added: “We are pleased to accept rFpro as a member and welcome their active participation in the OpenMATERIAL project.”

    For more on rFpro please see our recent feature: CCAV turn to F1’s rFpro for super realistic self-driving simulation software

    Cars of the Future self-driving event report: Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Enormous UK self-driving business opportunity: Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    A perennial highlight of the self-driving calendar, mid-March means Zenzic Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) Innovators’ Day at the IET in London.

    If 2022 celebrated the shared vision of societal benefits, and last year focused on global R&D leadership, CAM Innovators 2024 majored on the self-driving business case.

    Keynote speakers

    With Minister of State for the Investment Security Unit, Nusrat Ghani MP, as the first keynote speaker, there was an immediate sense that UK self-driving had truly arrived. Not in theory, but in Parliament, in international finance markets, and in providing quality services to the paying public.

    In a short welcome speech, self-driving industry legend Prof. Paul Newman CBE, described the process of gaining National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approval for the Oxa Driver-powered Beep shuttles in Florida.

    He highlighted the extraordinary progress in AI over the last three years, the importance of the AV Bill, and the need to progress beyond R&D to real-world issues like where to deploy.

    He then introduced Ghani, who also focused on commercialisation. “Self-driving represents an enormous opportunity,” she said. “The AV Bill provides a comprehensive framework for British firms to lead the world in greener, safer and more reliable transport.”

    Self-driving industry legend Prof. Paul Newman and Nusrat Ghani MP at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Self-driving legend Prof. Paul Newman and Nusrat Ghani MP at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Following a ‘fireside chat’ with Ghani covering the necessity to build trust and the role of local authorities, Newman then introduced the second keynote speaker: Sir John Armitt CBE, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Committee (NIC).

    Sir John opened with the famous quote by Peter Drucker that “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. He explained that the NIC exists to provide the UK government with impartial, expert advice on major long term infrastructure challenges. “The opportunities offered by these technologies are amazing,” he said, “and uncertainty should not be a reason to do nothing.”

    Media huddle

    Us journos were then whisked off for a ‘media huddle’ with the Minister, Sir John and Newman, at which we were encouraged to ask difficult questions.

    Ok. So, how are hard-pressed local authorities expected to fund investment in self-driving services? What is the likely timescale for widespread UK rollout? Has the Cruise incident in America changed the thinking over here?

    There was broad agreement that the commercial market doesn’t always work for essential public transport. Without putting a date on it, Newman likened self-driving adoption to water flowing downhill – it will quickly find its way and there will be countless second order effects.

    Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Sir John Armitt CBE at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Taking a helicopter view, Sir John pointed out that complexities were only to be expected in such technically advanced engineering, and that even Brunel delivered late and over budget!

    Unfortunately, these media duties meant we missed the shaping regulation session, notably featuring George Ivanov, Head of International Policy at Waymo. He apparently expressed frustration at the lack of legislative progress in the UK and refused to be drawn on when Waymo might begin operating here.

    Self-driving successes

    After a short break, Mark Cracknell, Program Director at Zenzic, walked us through “12 months of success”, including the announcement of Cohort 4, the expansion of CAM Testbed UK (now including Catesby Tunnel and Tees Valley), and the launch of PAVE UK.

    UK self-driving R&D facilities: CAM Testbed
    UK self-driving R&D facilities: CAM Testbed

    Alan Walker of Syselek then moderated a panel on developing the CAM supply chain featuring Dr. Martin Dürr of Dromos, Laura O’Neill of Belfast Harbour, Steven Russell of Stagecoach, and Steve Sutcliffe of Nissan – at least two more Self-Driving Industry Award winners there!

    Dürr was the first, but not the last, speaker to praise CCAV and Zenzic for their commercial acumen. “We moved to the UK because of their support,” he said. “We are now close to our first deployment, are involved in an exciting project to revitalise old railways using the Dromos system, and are also looking at manufacturing our vehicles here.”

    Next up, Agnessa Spanellis, senior lecturer in systems thinking at Edinburgh University, hosted a panel on trust and acceptance with Jonathan Smith of MFM, Ed Houghton of DG Cities, Gordon McCullough of the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RiDC), and urban designer Helen Ng of Jacobs.

    Although improved accessibility is one of the most frequently quoted benefits of self-driving, McCullough reported that the disabled community are already starting to feel excluded. This cannot be ignored and we will bring you more from the RiDC in the coming weeks.

    Following a short morning wrap-up by Kate Jack, of Standec, it was lunchtime. Amidst intense networking, the fish and chips was undoubtedly the dish of choice.

    Self-driving insurance

    Far from a post-lunch lull, the afternoon kicked-off with probably the best panel of the day – on insurance. Charlotte Greenacre, of Thatcham Research, laid the groundwork. For starters, some insurers are now refusing to insure EVs, much of our legislation is “not fit for the modern world”, and that’s before we even get into the different liabilities.

    Over to Jonathan Fong, of the Association of British Insurers (ABI), to moderate a panel featuring Matt Daley of rFpro, Chris Jones of Admiral Pioneer, Rebecca Marsden of Oxa, Sam Tiltman of Marsh, and Jamie Wilson of Alexander Dennis.

    Self-driving insurance panel at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024
    Self-driving insurance panel at Zenzic CAM Innovators 2024

    Wilson outlined the challenges of evaluating risk in the continually changing environment of a bus route, and the considerably more difficult task of doing similar for free-roaming cars.

    “Insurance is mission critical in preparation for mass market adoption, and will look very different from personal lines,” said Marsden. Tiltman predicted that self-driving would “terraform” insurance over the next two decades, resulting in less accidents, less deaths and dramatically increased logistical efficiencies.

    On the requirement in the AV Bill for data sharing in the event of an accident, Daley raised the enticing prospect of using simulation to literally show exactly what happened.

    In the home straight now, Eman Martin-Vignerte, Government Affairs Director at Bosch UK, explained how a partnership with WeRide enabled them to develop a Level 4 car in just 18 months. The three key challenges now, she asserted, are complexity, homologation and scalability.

    Self-driving commercialisation

    The final panel of the day, “Getting the show on the road”, provided pleasing evidence of multiple viable UK self-driving businesses. Moderated by Amy Marshall of PA Consulting, it featured Miles Garner of Aurrigo, Jim Hutchinson of Fusion Processing, Ben Jardine of eVersum, Louise Lawrence of WSP, and Ian Pulford of Ohmio UK.

    Not only a leader in self-driving passenger vehicle manufacturing, Coventry-based Aurrigo is enjoying commercial success in automated baggage handling, notably at the multi-award-winning Changi Airport in Singapore. “We now have paying customers, and we thank Innovate, CCAV and Zenzic for their help in getting us here,” said Garner.

    Fusion, of course, provided software to our reigning Self-Driving Vehicle of the Year champion, CAVForth, which has already given tens of thousands of passengers their first taste of self-driving public transport in Scotland. “The next step is taking out the safety driver and moving to commercial success,” said Hutchinson.

    Summarising the info-packed day, former Minister of State for Digital and Creative Industries, now executive chair at WMG, Margot James, reflected on the ability of CAM to improve safety and “bring about a more inclusive society”. She emphasised the urgent need to pass the AV Bill to enable UK self-driving to flourish.

    We certainly hope that will be in place by this time next year, for CAM Innovators 2025. In the meantime, let’s finish with this intriguing snapshot – traffic on the Embankment as we arrived at the IET for CAM Innovators 2023, when there was a tube strike, and this year. Spot the difference!

    Traffic on the Embankment for CAM Innovators 2023 and 2024
    Traffic on the Embankment for CAM Innovators 2023 and 2024

    For more on accelerating the self-driving revolution, and to apply for CAM Scale-up Cohort 5, visit the Zenzic website.

    Cars of the Future self-driving event report: SMMT Connected 2024

    Great British self-driving at SMMT Connected 2024

    Like a wily international manager giving a tournament debut to a wildly talented prodigy, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) put self-driving front and centre of its eagerly anticipated Connected 2024 event.

    Lined up outside The QEII Centre, in the shadow of Westminster Abbey, were some of the best British self-driving vehicles – a CAVForth bus, an Oxa modified Ford pickup, and an Aurrigo airport Auto-Dolly – and the impressive but not self-driving Ford Mustang Mach-E.

    SMMT Connected 2024 self-driving vehicles
    SMMT Connected 2024 vehicle line-up

    For those in the sector, it was a pinch yourself moment – no longer some side quest from driver assistance, this was high profile backing for true self-driving from one of the UK’s largest trade associations.

    Self-driving press briefing

    The day (Thursday 14 March) started early, with an 8am press briefing by SMMT Chief Executive, Mike Hawes. He set out why “the UK auto sector is calling for the swift passing of the Automated Vehicles (AV) Bill to deliver long-term economic and social benefits”, notably preventing 53,000 serious accidents by 2040 and delivering a £38bn economic boost… if the Bill is enacted in this parliament.

    “Further delay risks leaving Britain in the slow lane, jeopardising our competitiveness,” he warned, highlighting new YouGov research for the SMMT showing that 29% of UK adults would happily use an automated bus, shuttle or taxi service today.

    This set the scene for a lively Q&A with David Wong, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager at the SMMT, Oxa’s Autonomy Systems and Regulatory Expert, Bryn Balcombe (formerly of F1 and Roborace), and Prof. David Keene, Chief Executive of Aurrigo.

    SMMT Connected 2024 press briefing
    SMMT Connected 2024 self-driving press briefing

    Wong refenced the launch of PAVE UK and the need to build public trust, while Balcombe (more from him later) urged vehicle manufactures to speed up the adoption of brake- and steer-by-wire in readiness for automation.

    Prof. Keene explained that, as well as being a tier one supplier to the likes of JLR and Bentley, and working on self-driving passenger vehicles, Aurrigo is now the world leader in automated baggage handling at airports. Despite the current state of tech stocks globally, he expressed pride in Aurrigo being listed on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

    Transport Minister

    All this, remember, before the main conference had even begun! Upstairs, in an auditorium packed with 300+ delegates, broadcaster Katie Derham introduced the first keynote speaker, the Rt Hon Mark Harper MP, Secretary of State for Transport.

    He enthused about mobility “without the responsibility of driving”, his experience of travelling in a Wayve car in London, and the opportunity for “world leading regulation” to “transform the life chances of the disadvantaged”.

    Transport Secretary Harper takes a self-driving ride to announce the AV Bill

    Predictably, questions from our broadsheet colleagues then focused on electric cars! Fair points to which Harper provided more than adequate answers.

    Dr. Celine Laurent-Winter, Vice President of Connected Vehicle Platforms at BMW Group, then captured the imagination with the promise of an enjoyable journey to the south of France, complete with in-car luxuries, no traffic jams or breakdowns, and the vehicle handling all the cross-channel arrangements. “Premium connectivity is a must to enable this,” she said.

    Derham then hosted a fireside chat with Maria Uvarova, SVP of Software Product at Stellantis, and Tom Stringer, Product Strategy Director at JLR. “Statistics tell us that AVs are safer,” said Uvarova, while Stringer insisted that personal ownership would remain the preferred option at the pricier end of the market.

    Sunshine at SMMT Connected 2024
    Sunshine at SMMT Connected 2024

    Self-driving panels

    If this is starting to sound more connected than self-driving, fear not. The next panel, moderated by Ben Gardner, of law firm Shoosmiths, and featuring Dr René Hosse, Head of AD System Definition at Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Isobel Pastor, Head of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), and Prof. Keene of Aurrigo, was titled: “Making the quantum leap: overcoming the remaining challenges to a safe and responsible commercial rollout of automated vehicles”.

    PAVE UK got another mention, with Gardner saying: “The AV Bill is a fantastic first step and may it sail through parliament.” Hosse reiterated the importance of being utterly transparent about what the technology can and can’t do. In response to a question about the likely timescale, Pastor said: “The target is 2026, in line with what we are hearing from industry, and there will also be more advanced trials.”

    The next panel, on Trustworthy AI, was moderated by Cerys Wyn Davies of law firm Pinsent Masons, and featured Sarah Gates of Wayve, Kevin Green of Logistics UK, Rob Rugman of Motability Operations, and Jim Sanders, of the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB).

    Highlighting Wayve’s Lingo tool, which enables the software to explain its actions using language, Gates asserted: “The only way to achieve safety is AI”. Green admitted there had not been the highest level of focus on CAM in the CV sector due to other priorities such as clean fuel. Similarly, Rugman was more focused on connectivity because “it is here today.”  

    Sanders raised the thorny issue of self-driving public transport negatively impacting blind people by removing the reassurance and assistance of the driver. He made a compelling case that designing for inclusivity was proven to result in significant unforeseen benefits, such as the widespread adoption of voice commands.

    MH at SMMT 2024

    Admirably keeping the attention before lunch, Robert Smith, of Digital Catapult, drew on his 35 years in AI to argue that it is “a goal rather than a technology”. He used an AI-generated picture of a car with four sideways wheels to expose the limitations.

    The first session after lunch, a remote presentation by Maria Cristina Galassi, of the European Commission, was unfortunately hindered by technical issues. But we were soon back up to speed with another heavyweight panel featuring Peter Hafmar, Head of Autonomous Solutions at Scania, Ali Ihsan, of L4 software provider ADASTEC, and George Ivanov, Head of International Policy at Waymo (formerly Google’s Self-Driving Car Project).

    Hafmar emphasised the surprising extent of data sharing across the leading companies, while Ivanov pointed to “statistically credible data” from the US showing self-driving to be 85% safer against a human benchmark.

    After Johannes Springer, of the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA), outlined his organisation’s work in uniting the telecom and auto industries, he joined a panel on “The critical enablers that pave the way for connected and automated mobility.”

    Featuring Amelia Armour, of Amadeus Capital Partners, Lee Callaghan, of insurer Aviva, Andrew Hart, of SBD Automotive, and Joe Poynter, of global address system What3words, it covered everything from cybersecurity (we don’t invest as heavily as sectors such as banking), to an initiative in the Netherlands to makes all traffic lights smart (huge benefits for relatively little cost), to accident data reporting (vital to understand what happened and why).

    We were in the home straight now, and the pace was picking up. Standing in for Prof. Paul Newman, Bryn Balcombe of Oxa walked us through the key lines in the AV Bill.

    He reflected on that fact that it took 19 months to investigate the death of Elaine Herzberg, and used the notorious 2021 Hamilton Verstappen F1 crash at Monza – the one where Lewis said the halo saved him – to explain how UK self-driving crashes would be investigated.

    Shadow Minister

    Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP, at SMMT Connected 2024
    Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP

    Finally, with more than half an eye on the next general election, Shadow Minister for Transport, Bill Esterson MP, reiterated that “Labour will support the AV Bill currently going through the Commons“, and reintroduce the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales.

    Returning to our opening analogy, this was another momentous day for UK self-driving – the wider automotive industry acknowledging that automated mobility is a gamechanger ready to be carefully introduced. MPs from all sides are supportive and the best regulatory framework in the world is almost in place. Now, let’s get Britain self-driving!

    Calling all automated mobility professionals… enter the Self-Driving Industry Awards today!

    Are you the best of the best? Entries open for the Self-Driving Industry Awards 2024

    Presented by, entries for the second annual Self-Driving Industry Awards are open now, to once again celebrate excellence in automated mobility, in the UK and internationally.

    As widely reported – here and here and here and more – last year’s inaugural event saw companies from four continents attend a glittering ceremony at Margate’s Turner Contemporary gallery, with Stagecoach and Alexander Dennis winning the headline Vehicle of the Year award for Project CAVForth.

    Reigning Self-Driving Industry Awards Vehicle of the Year: CAVForth
    Reigning Self-Driving Industry Awards Vehicle of the Year: CAVForth

    Self-Driving Industry Awards 2024

    SDIA 2024 will follow the same peer-led safety-focused format, with entrants in 10 categories – Aftermarket, Design, Hardware, Insurance, Legal, Research, Software, Testing, Trust and V2X – gaining the right to nominate an individual and a vehicle for the top honours. Editor, Neil Kennett, said: “The first Self-Driving Industry Awards exceeded all expectations, so the only big change for 2024 is greater emphasis on user experience in the Trust category. This reflects the fact that self-driving is becoming an everyday reality for ever more people.

    “From robotaxis in America to the CAVForth buses in Scotland, a growing number of operators are providing an increasingly diverse range of safe and efficient passenger and freight services. These prestigious awards recognise and celebrate the world’s best new automated mobility products, and the incredible people behind them.”

    Highlights from the 2023 Self-Driving Industry Awards

    The deadline for entries is 5pm UK-time on Friday 20 September, with all shortlisted candidates receiving an invitation to the hottest show in town… the SDIA 2024 awards ceremony.

    To enter, please visit the Awards page #SDIA24